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SA data science start-up Zindi shines at UN summit

• Celina Lee is the CEO and co-founder of Zindi. She has a proven track record of thought leadership in the intersect between data and development and has played central roles in launching global initiatives, including the Alliance for Financial Inclusion and insight2impact. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn
• Celina Lee is the CEO and co-founder of Zindi. She has a proven track record of thought leadership in the intersect between data and development and has played central roles in launching global initiatives, including the Alliance for Financial Inclusion and insight2impact. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

Proudly South African start-up Zindi, a network for professional data scientists in Africa, will today lead a session at the eight edition of the UN Science Summit in New York. The session hosted by Zindi chief executive Celina Lee is on “The grassroots revolution driving data science in Africa.”

Lee will be joined on the virtual stage by Jade Abbott, software engineer, data scientist and co-founder of Masakhane, a leading initiative in natural language processing in Africa; and Reem Elmahdi, machine learning engineer, Zindi ambassador and data science community leader from Sudan.

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The panel will look at how Zindi is changing the way that data science is learnt and practised in Africa, far from the bright lights of Silicon Valley. They will discuss why community-driven and open-source data science and machine learning may be better than a top-down approach to address Africa’s unique challenges.

Also, it will explore how Zindi supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of access to quality education and promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

The role and contribution of science to attain the SDGs is the central theme of the UN Science Summit. The objective is to develop and launch science collaborations to demonstrate global science mechanisms and activities to support the attainment of the SDGs.

“Demand for data science and data engineering skills is exploding, and communities across Africa are collaborating to fill the gaps left by government and academia in developing talent and solutions to meet this demand. Organisations like Zindi and Masakhane are providing an entire generation of aspiring young people with the tools and opportunities they need to get ahead in  rapidly changing and highly competitive field,” says Lee.

Zindi was established in Cape Town in 2018, with the aim of making data science and artificial intelligence (AI) skills accessible to companies on the African continent.

With a network of over 48 000 data scientists registered on the platform, from more than 160 countries around the world, Zindi helps data practitioners of all levels access tutorials and mentors to build their practical skills, and virtually participate in data science competitions. They are also able to apply for jobs using their CV on the Zindi platform and connect with a broader community of practice.

Lee adds, “It is critical that business take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a pro-active approach to their own lifelong learning, and that governments create an enabling environment to facilitate this workforce transformation.

“This is the key challenge of our time, and it is an honour for Zindi to be joining eminent scientists, innovative thinkers and policy and other decision makers from across the globe at the Science Summit next week.”

Registrations to attend the UNGA77 Science Summit is free.

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